We appreciate the housewife's culinary creation; we admire the tasteful creation of the dressmaker; we wonder at the glorious creation of artist or musician; perhaps we even envy them. But food and clothing pass away and are forgotten. Even the grand symphony, the beautiful picture, the graceful statue, may pass into oblivion, and man forget that they ever existed.
But humanity is endowed with creative powers that are not transient. The brains builded by the individual are transmitted to his posterity from generation to generation.
God's greatest power is that of conferring life, sentient life. We might have imagined that that marvelous power he would have kept for Himself alone, but He has not done so. We have also the power to confer life. We can call into existence other human beings, and endow them with the record of our own lives, giving to them our form, our features, our measure of vitality, our tendencies, our habits; and these human beings whom we have thus called into life will never die. What diviner, more responsible gift could God have conferred upon us than this? What more worthy of our devout study? In this reverent attitude of mind let us study this gift of creative power, learning what we may of its scope and purpose and the material organs through which it works.
In your study of physiology in school you took up the organs of individual life. You studied the framework of the body, its machinery, its internal vital mechanism. You studied about digestion, nutrition, respiration, elimination, and in this you learned nothing of physical differences between individuals. All were considered as having the same organs, used in the same way. Girls have the same number of bones as boys, the same number of muscles, of vital organs. They sleep, breathe, eat, digest, grow, according to the same plan. So far there seems no reason why there should be any distinction of male and female. But as we come to study what is called special physiology we discover physical differences and reasons for their existence.
There are certain differences of form that are discernible at a glance. Men are usually larger than women. They have heavier bones and bigger muscles. They have broad shoulders and narrow hips, and have hair upon the face. Women have smooth faces, more rounded outlines, narrower shoulders and broader hips. In man the broadest part of the body is at the shoulders, in woman at the hips. This is significant of a great fact which will be manifest to you when you understand the functions of each sex. Although each has the same general plan of individual life, there are special functions which determine the trend of their lives. The man's broad shoulders are indicative that he is to bear the heavy burdens of life—struggles for material support—and woman's broad hips indicate that she is to bear the heavier burden of the race.
When we come fully to understand the deep significance of sex, we shall find in it a wonderful revelation of possibilities of development into a God-likeness that will stir our hearts to their very depths.
Humanity so weak, so lacking in appreciation of his possibilities, so groveling when he should soar, has been endowed with powers that give him control over the destiny of the race. We may well exclaim, with Young:
"How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, How complicate, how wonderful is man! How passing wonder He who made him such! Who centred in his make such strange extremes! From diff'rent natures, marvelously mix'd! Connection exquisite of distant worlds! Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain! Midway from nothing to the Deity!"
When you were born you were, as all babies are, deaf, dumb, blind, and helpless, but immediately the external world began to act upon you. Then began the process of mind-building. You began to experience sensations of heat and cold, of hunger, of pain. The eyes began at once to recognize the light, the ears to become aware of sounds. After a time, objects were made clear to your sight and certain sounds were recognized. You learned your mother's face and voice, and, little by little, became acquainted with all the objects in the world of home. You began to use your limbs, and in this also you were at work building your mind. We do not sufficiently realize that every aimless movement of the baby has in reality a great purpose—that of creating brainpower sufficient to enable the baby to control itself in all its voluntary movements. We do not think that the fluttering hands and little kicking feet are really building brains, but this is so. And all of life's experiences have been building brain for you ever since.
Professor Elmer Gates tells us that only about ten per cent. of our brains are cultivated, that there is a vast field of brain possibilities lying undeveloped in each one of us, and that these possibilities are to be developed through cultivation of the senses. So while I have been talking to you of the care of your body, I have been advocating that which will in reality develop mind.
We have learned that certain areas of brain govern certain movements of body. For example, anatomists know not only where the general motor area is located, but they can indicate the very spot where any special motor-force is generated.
In the case of a mill girl who was subject to epilepsy and had pain in her right thumb at each attack, it was decided to remove the part of the brain which governed the motions of that thumb. This they could do because they knew just where that motor-center lies, and yet they were able to take out no more than that, for when the wound was healed she had full use of all of her hand except the thumb.
We may know that by exercising a certain organ we are building up a certain part of the brain. For example, the man who has cultivated his hearing until he can hear sounds inaudible to ordinary men, has made for himself more brain-cells in the hearing area. If he has cultivated his sight assiduously, he has created more visual cells. If his touch has been cultivated, his brain has received new touch sensation-cells. And Professor Gates asserts that his mental ability has been thereby increased. You will be interested in hearing of his experiments with animals and what he has learned therefrom.
He says he has demonstrated that it is possible to give to an animal or a human being more brains, and consequently a better use of the mental faculties. During twelve months, for five or six hours a day, he trained dogs to discriminate colors. He placed several hundred tin pans, painted different tints, in the yard with the dogs. At one time he put their food under pans of a certain tint. When they had learned to go at once to these pans for their food, he changed the color. Again he arranged it so that they would receive an electric shock if they touched pans of any color save the particular one. They soon learned to avoid all the pans except those of this tint. So, by many different methods, he trained them to recognize shades and tints until they could discriminate between seven shades of red and as many shades of green, and in many ways they manifested more mental ability than any untrained dog. While these dogs were being trained, another group of dogs were being deprived of the use of sight by being kept in a darkened room.
At the end of the year both groups of dogs were killed and their brains dissected. He found that the dogs kept in the darkness had less than the usual number of cells in the seeing areas, and the cells were smaller, while the dogs which had been trained to discriminate between tints and shades of color many times a day had a far greater number of larger and more complex brain-cells in the seeing areas than any dog of that age and species ever had before. "Therefore," says Professor Gates, "mind activity creates organic structure."
Prof. Gates discovered other things of equal importance. He carried his observations to successive generations, and found that the fifth generation was born with a far greater number of brain-cells than could be found in animals not descended from trained ancestors.
This is not only interesting, but of value. You will remember, in our talk concerning your value, we spoke of your value to the race, and learned that in cultivating yourself in any direction you were adding to the welfare of future generations. That was only a general statement, and now you can see how it can be. You see that if you can make more brains for yourself you are also making more brains for your posterity. Or if you fail to make brains for yourself, posterity will in like degree be defrauded.
Many people have the idea that we are obliged to be satisfied with our dower of mental ability, and so are excusable for failing to reach as high a level as some others. If we really believed that we could create brains we would not sit down and sigh over small mental capacity, but go to work at once in building minds for ourselves.
And first, we must learn to control our thoughts and make them go where we send them. In too many cases thoughts wander here and there, with no power governing and guiding them.
When we are sauntering in the wood we sometimes come upon pathways, and we know at once that many, many footsteps of men or animals have been needed to make the paths. If those who walked here had wandered each in his own way, no path would have been made. One pair of feet going often over the same ground will make a path. So the thoughts, traversing the same areas of brain, will make records on the brain-cells which we may call paths. Every time a thought follows the same line it creates a deeper impression, and makes it easier to go over the same territory again. In this way habits are formed. If the thoughts are good, the habits will be good; if evil, the habits will be bad.
It is not hard to understand how much easier it is to form a habit than to overcome it. The emotions, like the thoughts, create habits; but, more than this, they create actual physical conditions.
It was my pleasure and profit once to have a conversation with Professor Gates in his laboratory, and he showed me an instrument wherein he condenses the breath. He then subjects it to a chemical reagent, and by the precipitate formed he knows what was the mental condition of the individual, whether he were angry, sorrowful or remorseful. In five minutes after a fit of anger he finds the excretory organs beginning to throw out the poison which anger has created. Only five minutes suffice to create the poison, but half an hour is none too much to eliminate it.
Think what must be the bodily state of one who is constantly irritated or angry, who feels jealousy, hatred, or revenge. With body poisoned by these malevolent passions he cannot feel well, for his physical organs cannot do good work unless fed by pure blood. Professor Gates finds that the benevolent emotions create life-giving germs in the body; so, to love others is not only helpful to them, but it also gives us new life.
Anger, worry, hatred, jealousy, are suicidal emotions. We cannot for our own sakes afford to indulge in them, while from selfish reasons alone we should be incited to kindness, generosity, sympathy, and love.
YOU ARE MORE THAN BODY OR MIND.
We have talked of your body and your mind, but as yet not of yourself. You are not body; you are not mind; but you possess both. You are spirit, created by God, who is spirit; therefore you are His child. You may not have thought much of this fact, but that has not changed the fact. No failure to recognize God as your father changes His relationship to you. No conduct of yours can make you any less His child.
"Well," you may say, "if that is so, what does it matter, then, what I do? If disobedience or sin cannot make me less God's child, why should I be good and obedient?" Because, dear heart, your conduct changes your attitude towards Him. You might not know that I am your mother; you might know it and choose to disobey my wishes; yet in both cases I should still be your mother, and no more or less in one case than in the other. But you will have no difficulty in understanding that in one case you would be a loving, helpful, obedient daughter, a comfort and delight to me; in the other, a disobedient, willful, unloving daughter, a care and trouble.
We are God's children, each of us, dependent on His love and bounty for protection, food, friends, intellect, even life. Is it dignified and noble in us to ignore and disobey Him? Indeed the most worthy and dignified thing we can do is to recognize ourselves as God's children and be obedient. It is a wonderful glory to be a child of God. It means that we have Godlike powers. The children of human parents are like them in their capacities. Children of God must have capacities that are Godlike.
This is true even of the most ignorant or degraded. They have in themselves divine possibilities.
If you can get this thought fully engrafted into your consciousness, it seems to me you can never willfully do wrong, can never condescend to a mean or ignoble deed, because you recognize your divine inheritance, and feel compelled by it to live truly, nobly.
Being children of God puts on us certain obligations towards Him, but it also puts on God certain obligations towards us. "What!" you say; "God the Infinite under obligations to man, the finite? The Creator under obligations to the created?" Oh, yes.
We recognize the fact that human parents are under obligations to care for their children, to protect them, to educate them, to give them opportunities. Even such are the obligations of God towards His human children, and He fulfills them. All our earthly blessings are from His hand. Home, friends, shelter, food, are gifts of His love. He takes such minute care of us that if for one second of time He would forget us, we should be annihilated. He educates us. He does not send us away to a boarding-school where we hear from Him but seldom, but He has a home-school where He is both Father and Teacher, and His methods of instruction are divinely wise.
The injudicious love of earthly parents often induces them to do for their children things it would be far better to let the children do for themselves. I once knew a boy of seven years, as intelligent as the ordinary child, who had never been allowed to go down stairs alone in his life for fear he would fall. This unwise care of the parents had resulted in the child's being timid, fearful, and unable to care for himself. He would cry if he fell, and would lie still sobbing until some one came to pick him up and quiet him with caresses. At the same time I saw a boy of four who could run up and down stairs, go to the store alone to make purchases, and who, if he fell, would jump up quickly, saying, "O, that didn't hurt." Which child had been better protected—the one who had been cared for by an overindulgent parent, or the one who, by judicious stimulation to self-help, had learned to care for himself?
God teaches us how to help ourselves, and circumstances of life which we so often think hard and cruel are only the means by which we are being trained to be strong. The things we call failure, worriment, and hardship, are only the little tumbles by which we are learning to walk.
The heathen philosopher, Seneca, says: "God gives His best scholars the hardest lessons." We know how proud we would feel if our school-teacher would say, "This is a hard problem, but I believe you can solve it." We would be stimulated to work night and day to justify his confidence in our ability. But when a little trial comes in life we are quite apt to say, "God is so hard in His dealings with me. Why should He be so unkind?" instead of saying: "These hard things of life are a test of my scholarship, and are an evidence of my Teacher's confidence in my ability."
I would like you to get this thought fixed in your mind so firmly that you will feel sure that all circumstances of life are but lessons in God's great school, and, rightly used, will be the means of promoting you to higher grades.
No scholar wants to stay always in the primary department because it is easy there. He welcomes each promotion, although he knows it means harder lessons and new difficulties. He looks forward to college or university with pride, even though lessons grow harder and harder.
God's school of earthly life has in it all grades of advancement. Will you be a studious, courageous scholar and try to learn life's lessons well? It is such a wonderful thing to be a child of God, for that means to be an heir of God, an heir of His wisdom, His strength, His glory, His powers. "All things are yours," says Paul; "life, death, things present and things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
With a feeling of reverence for ourselves we now take up the subject of special physiology to learn what makes us women. In the study of general physiology we find very few physical differences in the sexes, but when we come to investigate what is called the reproductive system we find entire difference of structure and of function.
Boys and girls in early childhood are much alike in their inclinations. They both love activity—to run, to climb, to shout, to laugh, to play. If left to themselves one sees not much more difference between boys and girls than between different individuals of the same sex. But as they grow and develop they begin to take on characteristics that indicate the evolution of sex.
The boy grows rapidly in height, his voice breaks, the signs of a moustache appear, he seems constrained and embarrassed in society, and yet he begins to show more politeness towards women and more of an inclination to be gallant to girls. He is becoming a man, and assumes manlike airs. Often, too, he becomes restless and willful, hard to govern, self-assertive, with an assumption of wisdom that provokes laughter from his elders. The boy is passing through a serious crisis and needs much wise and loving care. There are inner forces awakening that move him strangely; he does not understand himself, neither do his friends seem to understand him. Sometimes they snub and nag him, sometimes they tease and make fun of him. In either case he does not find home a happy place, and frequently leaves it to seek more sympathetic companionship elsewhere.
I once spoke to an audience of women and girls along this line, and appealed to the mothers and sisters to be kind to the boys in their homes who were between twelve and eighteen years of age, to remember that they were passing through the critical period of transition from boyhood to manhood, and to try and help them by sympathy and kindness. Some time later, as I was on the train, a young lady came and sat down by me and said: "I want to thank you for what you said to us the other day about boys. I have a brother about sixteen, and we have done just as you said; we have teased him about his moustache, and his voice, and his awkwardness, and laughed the more because it seemed to touch him. He had gotten so that he never would do anything for us girls, and we called him an old bear. Since I heard you I concluded that we had done wrong and I would make a change, so that evening I said kindly, 'Charlie, don't you want me to tie your cravat? I'd like to, ever so much.' I shall never forget the surprised look he gave me. It seemed as if he could not believe that I, his sister, wanted to do something to please him, but as soon as he saw I really meant it he accepted my offer with thanks, and since then it seems as if he could not do enough for me. Really I have almost cried to think that so little a thing would make him so grateful. I have invited him to go out with me several times, and he seems so glad to go. Then I've begun to make things for his room—little fancy things that I never thought a boy would care for—and he has appreciated them so much. Why, he even stays in his room sometimes, now, instead of going off with the boys. And the other day, when one of the boys came to see him, I heard him say, 'Come up and see my room,' and the other boy said, 'Well, I wish some one would fix up my room in such a jolly fashion.' Really," said the girl, "if you have done nothing on your trip but what you have done for me, in showing me how to be good to my brother, it has paid for you to come."
I often think of this little incident when I see boys at this critical age who are snubbed and teased just because they are leaving the land of boyhood to begin the difficult climb up the slopes of early manhood towards the grander height of maturity; and I wish all parents, sisters and older brothers would manifest a sympathy with the boy who, swayed by inner forces and influenced by outward temptation, is in a place of great danger.
The girl at this period is also passing through a crisis, but this fact is better understood by her friends than is the crisis of the boy's life. Her parents are anxious that she shall pass the crisis safely, and they have more patience with her eccentricities. She, too, often shows nervousness, irritability, petulance, or willfulness. She has headaches and backaches, she manifests lassitude and weariness, and is, perhaps, quite changed from her former self. She weeps easily or over nothing at all. She is dissatisfied with herself and the whole world. She feels certain vague, romantic longings that she could not explain if she tried. She inclines toward the reading of sensational love stories, and if not well instructed and self-respecting may be easily led into flirtations or conduct that later in life may make her blush to remember. Certain physical changes begin to be manifest. She increases rapidly in height, her figure grows fuller and more rounded, her breasts are often sore and tender. Hair makes its appearance on the body, and altogether she seems to be blossoming out into a fuller and riper beauty. She is changing from the girl to the woman, and this is a matter of sex. At this time the organs of sex, which have been dormant, awaken and take on their activity, and it is this awakening which is making itself felt throughout her whole organization.
We are sometimes apt to think that sex is located in certain organs only, but in truth sex, while centralized in the reproductive organs, makes itself manifest throughout the whole organization. I used to feel somewhat indignant when I heard people talk of sex in mind, and I boldly asserted that it did not exist, that intellect was neuter and had no reference to sex; but I do not feel so now. When I see what an influence the awakening of sex has upon the entire body and upon the character, I am led to believe that sex inheres in mind as well. That does not mean that the brain of one sex is either inferior or superior to the other; it means only that they differ; that men and women see things from different standpoints; that they are the two eyes of the race, and the use of both is needed to a clear understanding of any problem of human interest.
You know that the true perspective of objects cannot be had with one eye only, for each eye has its own range of vision, and one eye can see much farther on one side of an object than the other can. You can try this for yourself.
If, then, in viewing the vital problems of life we have the man's view only or the woman's view only, we have not the true perspective. We cannot say that either has superior powers of vision, but we can say that they differ, as this difference is inherent in them as men and women, and not merely as individuals.
Instead, then, of looking at sex as circumscribed, and perhaps as something low and vulgar, to be thought of and spoken of only with whispers or questionable mirth, we should see that sex is God's divinest gift to humanity, the power through which we come into the nearest likeness to Himself—the function by which we become creators and transmitters of our powers of body, mind, and soul.
It is important that a young woman should understand her own structure and the functions of all her organs, and so, with this feeling of reverence for sex, we will begin this study.
The trunk of the body is divided into three cavities; the upper or thoracic cavity contains the heart and lungs; the central or abdominal cavity contains the organs of nutrition, the stomach, liver, bowels, etc.; the lower or pelvic cavity contains two organs of elimination, the bladder and the rectum, and also the organs of reproduction, or of sex. Between the outlet of bladder and bowels is the inlet to the reproductive organs. This inlet is a narrow channel called the vagina, and is about six inches in length. At the upper end is the mouth of the womb or uterus. The words mean the same, but womb is Anglo-Saxon and uterus is Latin, and as Latin is the language of science, we will use that word. The uterus is the little nest or room in which the unborn baby has to live for three-fourths of a year. It is a small organ, about the size and shape of a small flattened pear. It is suspended with the small end downwards, and it is hollow. It is held in place by broad ligaments that extend outward to the sides, and by short, round ligaments from front to back. These ligaments do not hold it firmly in place, for it is necessary that it should be able to rise out of the pelvic into the abdominal cavity during pregnancy, as the baby grows too large to be contained in the small pelvic space.
On the posterior sides of the two broad ligaments are two small oval organs which are called ovaries, meaning the place of the eggs.
BECOMING A WOMAN.
Perhaps you will remember that I once told you that all life is from an egg, the life of the plant, the fish, the bird, the human being. In the book "What a Young Girl Ought to Know" we discussed how all life originates in an egg, and why there must needs be fathers as well as mothers. We found that some eggs were small, were laid by the mothers in various places, and then left to develop or to die. Others were larger, covered with a large shell, and kept warm by the mothers sitting over them until the little ones were hatched. Others were so small that they developed in the mother's body until, as living creatures, they were born into the world. This is the case with the human being. He is first an egg in the mother's ovary. When this egg has reached a certain stage of development it passes from the ovary through a tube into the uterus. If it meets there, or on its way there, the fertilizing principle of the male, it remains there and develops into the child. If it does not meet this principle, it passes out through the vagina and is lost.
But the eggs, or ova—which is the Latin word meaning eggs—do not begin to ripen until the girl reaches the age of thirteen or fourteen, or, in other words, until she begins to become a woman. This passing away of the ovum (singular of ova) is called ovulation, and it occurs in the woman about every twenty-eight days. The uterus is lined by a mucous membrane similar to that which lines the mouth, and at this time of ovulation this membrane becomes swollen and soft, and little hemorrhages, or bleedings, occur for three or four days, the blood passing away through the vagina. This is called menstruation.
Sometimes, when girls have not been told beforehand of the facts of menstruation, they become greatly frightened at seeing this blood and imagine that they have some dreadful disease. If they have no friend to whom they can speak freely they sometimes do very injudicious things in their efforts to remove that which to them seems so strange and inexplicable. I have known of girls who washed their clothes in cold water and put them on wet, and so took cold and perhaps checked the menstrual flow, and as a consequence were injured for life, or may even have died years after as a result of this unwise conduct.
The girl who is wisely taught will recognize in this the outward sign of the fact that she has reached womanhood, that she has entered upon what is called the maternal period of a woman's life, the period when it is possible for her to become a mother.
This does not mean that she should become a mother while so young. It only means that the sex organs are so far developed that they are beginning to take up their peculiar functions. But they are like the immature buds of the flower, and need time for a perfect development. If she understands this, and recognizes her added value to the world through the perfecting of her entire organism, she will desire to take good care of herself, and during these years of early young womanhood to develop into all that is possible of sweetness, grace, purity, and all true womanliness.
Girls who are not wisely taught sometimes feel that this new physical function is a vexatious hindrance to their happiness. It is often accompanied with pain, and its periodical recurrence interferes with their plans for pleasure, and they in ignorance sometimes say, rebelliously, "O, I hate being a woman!"
A young woman once came to consult me professionally. She was a well-formed, good-looking girl, to all outward appearance lacking nothing in her physical make-up; but she was now twenty-two and had never menstruated, so she was aware that for some reason she was not like other girls. She came to ask me to make an examination and find out, if possible, what was wrong. She was engaged to be married, and knew that motherhood was in some way connected with menstruation, and she thought it might be possible that her physical condition would preclude the possibility of her becoming a mother, and, if so, it would be dishonorable to marry. Upon examination I discovered that all the organs of reproduction were lacking. When I disclosed this fact to her she exclaimed, with sadness, "Oh, why was I not made like other girls? I have heard them complain because they were girls, but I think if they were in my place, and knew that they could never have a home and children of their own, they would feel they had greater reason then to complain."
I think so, too. We seldom think of the fact that upon sex depend all the sweet ties of home and family. It is because of sex that we are fathers, mothers and children; that we have the dear family life, with its anniversaries of weddings and birthdays. It is through sex that the "desolate of the earth are set in families," and love and generosity have sway instead of selfishness. For this reason we ought to regard sex with reverent thought, to hold it sacred to the highest purposes, to speak of it ever with purest delicacy, and never with jesting or prurient smiles. I do not want you to center your thought on the physical facts of sex, but I would like to have you feel that womanhood, which is the mental, moral and physical expression of sex, is a glorious, divine gift, to be received with solemn thankfulness.
I want you, for the sake of a perfect womanhood, to take care of your bodily health, and yet I do not want you to feel that a woman must of necessity be a periodical semi-invalid.
ARTIFICIALITIES OF CIVILIZED LIFE.
Menstruation is a perfectly physiological process and should be without pain. Indeed, Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi maintains that a woman ought to feel more life, vigor and ambition at that period than at any other time. As a fact, however, the majority of civilized women feel more or less lassitude and discomfort, and many suffer intensely. Whenever there is actual pain at any stage of the monthly period, it is because something is wrong, either in the dress, or the diet, or the personal and social habits of the individual. We certainly cannot believe that a kind and just God has made it necessary for women to suffer merely because they are women, and the observation of travelers among uncivilized peoples seems to indicate that where life is conducted according to nature's laws, the limitations of sex are less observable.
It is difficult for us to understand how very far our lives are from being natural. Professor Emmett, a world-renowned specialist in diseases peculiar to women, says: "At the very dawn of womanhood the young girl begins to live an artificial life utterly inconsistent with normal development. The girl of the period is made a woman before her time by associating too much with her elders, and in diet, dress, habits and tastes becomes at an early age but a reflection of her elder sisters. She may have acquired every accomplishment, and yet will have been kept in ignorance of the simplest features of her organization, and of the requirements for the preservation of her health. Her bloom is often as transient as that of the hothouse plant, where the flower has been forced by cultivation to an excess of development by stunting the growth of its branches and limiting the spread of its roots. A girl is scarcely in her teens before custom requires a change in her dress. Her shoulder-straps and buttons are given up for a number of strings about her waist and the additional weight of an increased length in skirt is added. She is unable to take the proper kind or necessary amount of exercise, even if she were not taught that it would be unladylike to make the attempt. Her waist is drawn into a shape little adapted to accommodate the organs placed there, and as the abdominal and spinal muscles are seldom brought into play they become atrophied. The viscera are thus compressed and displaced, and as the full play of the abdominal wall and the descent of the diaphragm are interfered with, the venous blood is hindered in its return to the heart."
Since Professor Emmett wrote this, public sentiment has changed, and it is no longer unladylike for girls to exercise; but with this increased freedom in custom should also come increased physical freedom through healthful clothing that allows perfect use of every muscle, more especially of the breathing muscles. I am sure you would rather pay out your money for that which shall add to your health and real happiness than to pay physicians to help you from suffering the just penalty of your own wrongdoing, and that is why I am anxious to give you this needed instruction. I do not care to have you study much about diseases, but I want you to understand very fully how, through care of yourself, to prevent disease.
SOME CAUSES OF PAINFUL MENSTRUATION.
There should be no pain at menstruation, but that pain is quite common cannot be denied. Let us look for other causes than are found in the dress.
One frequent cause is found in the ignorance of girls, and their consequent injudicious conduct at the time of the beginning of sexual activity. At this time of life the girl is often called lazy because she manifests lassitude, and this is nature's indication that she should rest. The vital forces are busy establishing a new function, and the energy that has been expressed in bodily activity is now being otherwise employed. The girl who has been properly brought up, whose muscles are strong, and whose nervous supply is abundant, may have no need of especial care at this time, but the average girl needs much judicious care, in order that her physical womanhood shall be healthfully established. She should be guarded from taking cold, from overexertion, from social dissipation, and especially from mental excitement, and other causes of nervousness. I would like to call your attention to the great evil of romance-reading, both in the production of premature development and in the creation of morbid mental states which will tend to the production of physical evils, such as nervousness, hysteria, and a host of maladies which largely depend upon disturbed nerves.
Girls are not apt to understand the evils of novel-reading, and may think it is only because mothers have outlived their days of romance that they object to their daughters enjoying such sentimental reading; but the wise mother understands the effects of sensational reading upon the physical organization, and wishes to protect her daughter from the evils thus produced.
It is not only that novel-reading engenders false and unreal ideas of life, but the descriptions of love-scenes, of thrilling, romantic episodes, find an echo in the girl's physical system and tend to create an abnormal excitement of her organs of sex, which she recognizes only as a pleasurable mental emotion, with no comprehension of the physical origin or the evil effects.
Romance-reading by young girls will, by this excitement of the bodily organs, tend to create their premature development, and the child becomes physically a woman months, or even years, before she should.
In one case it became my duty to warn a girl of eleven, who was an omnivorous reader of romances, that such reading was in all probability hastening her development, and she would become a woman in bodily functions while she ought yet to be a child. Her indications of approaching womanhood were very apparent. By becoming impressed by my words she gave up romance-reading, devoted herself to outdoor sports, to nature studies, and the vital forces diverted from the reproductive system were employed in building up her physical energy, her health improved, her nervousness disappeared, and three years later her function of menstruation was painlessly established.
A frequent cause of painful menstruation is found in habitual neglect of the bowels. The evils of constipation are common to the majority of women and girls, and the foundation is laid in childhood. Mothers are not careful enough in instructing children in the need of care in this respect, and so the habit is formed early in life, and the results are felt later.
If the bowels are not evacuated regularly the matter to be cast out of the body accumulates in the rectum and large bowel, and by pressure the circulation of the blood is impeded and congestion ensues. This extends to all the pelvic organs; the uterus and ovaries thus congested will soon manifest disease, and painful menstruation be the result.
One of the most frequent causes of pain is congestion produced by displacements. People are very apt to think that the displacement of the uterus is the main factor, but in my opinion it is a secondary condition, and not the one to be first considered. The uterus is a small organ, not vital to the individual, is very movable, and not sensitive, so that its displacement alone could hardly be considered sufficient to cause so great a train of evils as is frequently manifest. But the liver, stomach and bowels are large, vital organs, and their displacement leads to greater consequences. You learned at school that the bowels are over twenty feet in length, weigh as much as twelve or fifteen pounds, are supported in a way that makes it possible for them to sag into the abdominal cavity and press upon the pelvic organs. Dr. Emerson, of the Boston School of Oratory, asserts that in most adults the stomach and bowels are from two to six inches below their normal location; and, as I have said before, Dr. Kellogg often finds the stomach lying in the abdominal cavity as low down as the umbilicus. What has caused this sagging of the abdominal viscera? They certainly must have been intended to keep their place unless there has been some interference. We find just such interference in the ordinary arrangement of the clothing. Tight waists and bands, and skirts supported by the hips, are cause sufficient for these displacements.
Just above the hips there is no bony structure to protect and support the soft, muscular parts. They yield to pressure, and the internal viscera, deprived of muscular support, sink until they rest on the pelvic organs. If, when you look at your abdomen, you see depressions or hollows on each side below the floating ribs, you may know that the bowels have sagged down out of place. If you feel great weariness, backache, or a dragged down feeling in standing or walking, you may know that the contents of the abdomen are pulling on their attachments or pressing on the pelvic organs. Thus displaced, circulation is hindered and the organs all become congested, or filled with blood that moves very slowly. This congested condition is increased at menstruation, and great pain may result.
It is well to have the counsel of some good, honest physician under such circumstances, but should you be where it is not possible to have such counsel, you may still be able to do something to help yourself. In the first place, you can rearrange your clothing so as to relieve all the organs from external weight or pressure, and, in the second place, you can support the abdominal walls by applying pressure from below. I have known cases of painful menstruation entirely relieved by simply supporting the bowels by a bandage, thus relieving the uterus of pressure and allowing a free circulation through all the internal organs.
A very simple and practical bandage can be made at home at almost no cost, either in time or money. Buy some thin, cheap cotton flannel. Take lengthwise of the goods a strip long enough to go around the body at the hips, which will be a yard or a little over, and wide enough to fit from the thighs up to the waist, perhaps eight inches. Put darts on the sides and in the center of the back, to make it fit the figure. Make a couple of straps four inches wide and half a yard long; cut off one end of each diagonally. Sew these slanting ends to the lower side of the band about four inches from the center, that is eight inches apart, and so that the short side of the strap will be towards the center. Do not hem either band or straps, but overcast them; then they will not feel uncomfortable.
In order to adjust the band properly it will be well to lie down on the back upon the bandage with the knees raised. Press the hands low down upon the abdomen and raise the contents. Repeat this several times; then draw the bandage around, pin with safety pins, draw the straps up between the limbs and fasten with safety pins to the bandage. The support thus given is found to be very comfortable, and girls who have much trouble in walking or standing during their menstrual periods would find this simple bandage a great help at that time.
When the bandage is removed at night you should rub and manipulate the abdominal walls so as to increase the circulation and stimulate in them a better circulation and thus make you stronger.
By deep breathing in a proper standing attitude the abdominal viscera are lifted upward, and if the firmness of the abdominal walls is at the same time increased by exercise, the difficulties may be largely overcome. Some exercises will be found in Chapter XXIII. which are calculated to strengthen the walls and to lift the internal organs.
I wish to call your attention to a cause of displacement that is quite generally overlooked, and that is, a wrong attitude.
Dr. Eliza Mosher has made a very thorough study of this matter, and she says that the common habit of standing on one foot is productive of marked deformities of both face and body and of serious displacements of internal organs. It is seldom a girl or woman can be found whose body is perfectly symmetrical. By standing on one foot, the hip and shoulder of one side approach each other, and so lessen the space within the abdomen on that side. On the other side a support has been removed for the contents of the abdomen, and they sag down until they pry the uterus out of place and press it over towards the side where there is less pressure. The broad ligament on one side is stretched from use and on the other side shortened from disuse, and so the uterus remains permanently dislocated.
Dr. Mosher thinks that standing continually with the weight on the left foot is more injurious than bearing it on the right foot, for it causes the uterus and ovaries to press upon the rectum and so produces a mechanical constipation, especially during menstruation.
Wrong habits of sitting will produce the same results. If the girl sits at school with one elbow on the desk, the head will be turned to the opposite side and the spine will be inclined from the perpendicular, and a lateral curvature be likely to result. If she carries her books always on the same side, it will tend to increase the curvature. If she sits with both elbows supported, her shoulders will be pushed up. If her body is twisted as she sits, a strain comes upon the muscles, and some ligaments will be lengthened and others shortened, thus producing a lateral curvature.
To sit "on the small of the back," that is, slipping down in the chair, bracing the shoulders against the chair-back, tends to injure the nerves by pressure, and also to create a posterior curvature of the spine.
Does it not seem unfortunate that we should allow ourselves even to form such wrong habits of sitting and standing? And now we ask, How shall we know when we are in a correct attitude?
We have comparatively few correct examples to imitate. I notice people everywhere, and I see that old and young stand incorrectly. The head is poked forward, the shoulders are rounded, the chest is flattened, and the curve in the lower part of the back is straightened. The whole figure is out of balance, and therefore not harmonious. Not only is the beauty of the figure destroyed, but the internal organs are displaced. Many a mother who sees her daughter thus growing round-shouldered keeps telling her to throw her shoulders back; but to follow this command only increases the difficulty. The shoulders are not primarily at fault, but the trouble originates in non-use of the front waist muscles. These muscles, weakened by disease because of tight clothing and corset steels, and also by cramped positions in school or at work, refuse to hold the body erect, and it "lops" just at this point. This "lopping" disturbs the harmonious relation of the weights of shoulders, abdomen, head, and the large lower gluteal muscles with which nature has cushioned the lower part of the body, and so they are obliged to readjust themselves to balance each other, and the awkward, ungainly, unhealthful posture results.
What is needed is to restore the right relation of these weights and all will again be harmonious. Do not interfere with the shoulders, but straighten the front of the body by elevating the chest and raising the head until it is supported directly on the spine, letting the shoulders take care of themselves. If the abdomen is now held back and the gluteal muscles raised, the beautiful curves of the spine will be restored, the shoulders will be straightened, and the internal organs will have a chance to resume their natural position.
A very easy way of finding out if you have the correct attitude is to place your toes against the bottom of the door. Now bring your chest up to touch the door, and throw the lower part of the spine backward so that there will be a space between the abdomen and the door. Place the head erect, with the chin drawn in towards the neck, and you will have very nearly the correct attitude. It may seem a little tiresome at first, because you will be apt to hold yourself in position with needless tension of muscles, but you will soon learn to relax the unnecessary tension, and then you will find the position the most comfortable possible. You can walk farther without fatigue, and stand longer without backache, because the body is placed in the attitude in which all parts occupy their designed relation to each other.
One very important fact is that in the wrong attitude the abdominal organs crowd down into the pelvis, while in the correct position they are supported and kept from sagging, so that the matter of a correct attitude is not only a matter of beauty, but also of health.
In sitting, also, the most comfortable posture is the most healthful; that is, with the body squarely placed on the seat, and equally supported upon the pelvis—not leaning back against the chair, unless the chair should chance to be so constructed that it supports the lower part of the back and keeps the body erect.
We hear a great deal in these days of "female diseases," by which is meant the displacements of the organs of the reproductive system; that is, of the uterus, ovaries, etc. These displacements are many, for the uterus may not only drop down out of place, but it may be tipped towards one side or the other, to the front or the back; or it may be bent upon itself in various directions. These different displacements cause much pain, and often result in ulcerations and profuse discharges which are known as the "whites," or scientifically as leucorrhea.
I only mention these things incidentally, so that I may call your attention to the things you may do to prevent them.
A great many girls and women are spending large sums of money in being doctored for these difficulties who need not suffer with them at all if they had known how to dress healthfully; and many are bearing much anxiety over the possibility of becoming sufferers with these distressing diseases who could have their burden of fear removed by the knowledge that "female diseases," in the great majority of cases, are the results of wrong habits of dress and life. Leucorrhea is not a disease. It is a symptom of abnormal conditions, and to be cured it is needful that the conditions shall be understood.
Dr. Kellogg says, "Leucorrhea may result from simple congestion of the bloodvessels of the vaginal mucous membrane, due to improper dress. It may also be occasioned by taking cold, and by a debilitated condition of the stomach."
Leucorrhea is merely an abnormal increase of a normal secretion. All mucous membrane secretes mucus in small quantities—enough to keep the membrane moist. When from any cause this secretion is increased, we have what is called a catarrhal condition. As all cavities that communicate with the air are lined with mucous membrane, this catarrhal condition may exist in the nose, the throat, the eyes, the ears, the bowels, or the reproductive organs, and will be named according to the location.
A natural increase of this secretion takes place just before and after menstruation, and should occasion no anxiety, but if continued during the remainder of the month, especially if very profuse, of offensive odor, or bloody in character, it needs the attention of the skilled physician.
I do not wish to make you think constantly of yourself as diseased, and so I do not give you directions as to local self-treatment. Many symptoms can be overcome by general care of the health-habits of the girl, and if they do not yield to this general care it is better to consult a responsible physician than to tamper with yourself.
And here let me give you a word of warning. If you need medical care, never consult the traveling doctors who advertise to do such wonderful things. They charge big fees and give a little medicine and then move on, and you have no redress if they have not accomplished all that they have promised. They live off the gullibility of people. Again, never take patent medicines. Wonderful discoveries, favorite prescriptions and the like may be harmless, and they may not. And even if they are, how can you judge that they are suited to your special case? That they cured some one else is not proof that they will benefit you, and you run a risk by taking them as an experiment. One very serious danger in the taking of patent medicines is the fact that they are so largely alcoholic in composition, and girls and women have all too often been led into the alcohol habit and become habitual drunkards through taking some advertised remedy.
Another has correctly said: "If you need the consultation and advice of a physician go to your family physician, or, if you prefer, go to some other physician; but always select one whose moral character and acknowledged ability render him a suitable and safe adviser in such a time of need. Above all things avoid quacks. The policy they pursue is to frighten you, to work upon your imagination, and to make such alarming and unreliable statements as will induce you to purchase their nostrums and subject yourself to such a series of humiliations and impositions as will enable them to pilfer your purse and without rendering you in return any value received, but likely leave you in a much worse condition than they found you."
You will probably be advised by your personal friends, who may know of your ailments, to take hot douches, and perhaps you may wonder why I do not prescribe them for leucorrhea, and kindred difficulties.
I do not commend them for the fact that I do not want you to be turning your constantly anxious thought towards yourself in these matters. If you need such treatment, let it be prescribed by your physician, who knows exactly your condition. As far as possible turn your thoughts from the reproductive system. Take care of your general health, dress properly, obey all the rules of hygiene in regard to diet, sleep, bathing, special cleanliness, and care, and then forget as far as possible the physical facts of womanhood.
An excellent addition to your general bathing can be taken once a week in the form of a sitz bath, which is effective for cleanliness, and also for the reduction of congestion. If you have no sitz bath-tub, an ordinary wash-tub can be made to answer by raising one side an inch or two by means of some support. Have the water at a comfortable temperature, say about 98 degrees, and if you have no thermometer you can gauge the heat by putting in three gallons of cold water and add one gallon of boiling water. Sit down in the tub and cover yourself with a blanket. In about ten minutes add by degrees a gallon of cold water. Remain sitting a minute or two longer, then rub dry.
Many people are afraid to use cold water after hot, in bathing, for fear they will take cold, but that is just the way to prevent such a result from the hot bath. The hot water has caused all the pores on the surface of the body to open, and the bodily heat is rapidly lost through this cause. The cold water, quickly applied, causes the pores to close, leaves the skin in a tonic condition, and conserves the bodily heat. One should never take a hot bath without following it with a quick cold application to the surface. It should continue, however, but for a moment.
This kind of a bath is very useful for all chronic congestions of the abdominal and pelvic viscera, such as piles, constipation, painful menstruation, leucorrhea, or other affections of the reproductive organs. It is also very helpful in headaches due to congestion of the brain. If there is too little blood in the brain it might produce wakefulness, but when the brain is too full of blood this bath tends to produce sound and refreshing sleep.
A foot bath may be taken at the same time as the sitz bath, and in this case the water should be warmer than that in the sitz bath, and as the person rises from the sitz bath she should step into it, so that her feet will get the tonic effect of the cold water.
The average age at which menstruation first appears is fourteen, but some girls menstruate as early as eleven, while others may not develop till some years later. Frequently, when the girl does not manifest this symptom of womanly development, the mother becomes anxious and begins to give forcing medicines. She knows that girls often die with consumption in their early young womanhood, and has heard that it was because they did not physically develop, and she fears that such danger threatens her daughter, and imagines that if something can be done to "bring on her courses," as she expresses it, the danger will be averted.
In this case she has reversed cause and effect. The consumptive girl did not menstruate because she had not the vitality to do so. The consumption was the cause, the non-menstruation the effect. To produce hemorrhage from the reproductive system by strong, forcing medicines is only to increase the danger. The only thing to do is to improve the general health, and if the girl can increase in strength until she has more vital force than suffices to keep her alive, the function that is vital—not to her, but to the race—will establish itself.
The failure of the menses to appear at the average age may be due merely to a slow development, and in this case there is nothing to do but wait. If the girl seems well, if she has no backache, no headache, no general lassitude, no undue nervous symptoms, the mere non-appearance of the menses need occasion no alarm. If, however, she has these symptoms, it is an evidence that nature is attempting to establish the function and is hindered either by general lack of vitality or by some local condition, and in either case the giving of forcing medicines would be a mistake. The weekly sitz bath would do no harm as a semi-local measure. All proper precautions should be observed as to maintenance of general health and mental serenity, and if these do not prove sufficient the physician should be consulted.
In the case I mentioned, where the reproductive organs were lacking, the girl had been subjected to a long course of home medication which had proven disastrous to her digestion, and yet, as will be readily understood, had not resulted in the establishment of a function that is dependent upon organs which, in this case, did not exist.
Sometimes there are slight mechanical hindrances which can only be determined by the physician, though their presence will be indicated by the symptoms of menstruation without the accompanying sanguineous discharge. In these cases the home medication is dangerous. If the girl regularly has symptoms of approaching menstruation, with pain and bloating, and these subside without flow, it would be wise to consult the physician instead of resorting to domestic remedies or letting the matter go on without attention.
Quite frequently the first appearance of menstruation is followed by weeks or even months of freedom from its reappearance. In these cases no alarm need be felt as long as the general health is not affected. Again, there may be suspension of the function from change of surroundings. Girls who go away to school often suffer from irregularity. I have known of a case where the girl never menstruated during the school year, but was perfectly regular during vacations.
These cases may be accounted for by the nervous strain, the using up of vital forces in mental effort to such degree that there is nothing left with which to carry on the menstrual function. In all such cases it is wise to watch carefully the general health, and if all functions are not properly conducted, to reduce the strain until the vitality is able to keep all functions in order.
Girls are sometimes disturbed because the flow is scanty, and think they should do something to increase the amount. It is no doubt true that profuse menstrual flow is the result of our artificial lives. If we lived more normally we should have naturally a scanty menstrual flow. Therefore if a girl has good health and no monthly pain and the flow is scanty, she may consider herself as more nearly in a normal state, and be thankful.
If, however, the menses are suddenly less than normal it denotes a suppression, which may be the result of cold, exhaustion of body, weariness of nerves, mental anxiety, or disturbance of the emotions.
If gradual suppression occurs, accompanied by loss of health, it indicates some constitutional difficulty or local trouble which demands professional counsel.
Profuse menstruation is also a relative term, as there is no definite standard as to amount of menstrual flow, nor the length of time it should continue. The profuseness must be measured by the condition of the individual. Where health seems fully maintained there would appear no cause for anxiety. But if there is a marked increase over the amount usual for the individual, if great weakness and prostration is produced, either at the time or afterward, it may be called profuse, and the cause may be either debility, that is weakness, or plethora, which means fullness. If from the latter, there will be throbbing headache, pain in the back, and general signs of fever. If from debility, there will be pallor, weakness, and perhaps an almost continuous flow.
As may be imagined, the treatment in the two cases will differ. The full-blooded girl should be put on a plain, unstimulating diet, with plenty of out-door exercise during the month, but about twenty-four hours before the flow is expected she should have complete mental and physical rest. She should remain in bed, and apply cold wet cloths over the abdomen and between the thighs for an hour at a time, with intervals of at least one-half hour between the applications. The bowels should be freed from all fecal matter, and cool, small enemas be given two or three times a day. If these simple measures do not avail, the doctor should be consulted.
The pale and debilitated girl needs to rest. Sometimes, if hemorrhage continues almost from one period to the next, she should remain in bed even after the flow seems checked. The great desideratum is to build up the general health, not by tonics, which are usually only stimulants, but by the judicious observance of the laws of health. This will, in many cases, call for the advice of the physician, who can see and study the patient and her special conditions. It is not safe to trust to book-doctoring.
CARE DURING MENSTRUATION.
I have said that I do not want you to think yourself a semi-invalid and so be "fussy" about yourself, but I have also said that I want you to take care of yourself at all times, and especially during your menstrual periods. How can you make these ideas agree with each other?
I know that many writers say that a girl should spend one day each month in bed, or at least lying down; that there are some things that should always be forbidden to girls, simply because they are girls, such as running up and down stairs. These wholesale restrictions make girls rebellious at their womanhood. I simply want you to use good sense at all times in your care of yourself.
Knowing the fact that just before and during menstruation the uterus is heavier than at other times, because engorged with blood, and remembering that it is loosely suspended, it is easy to understand that long walks or severe exercise at the menstrual period will more easily cause it to sag, and this sagging becoming permanent may cause pain, backache, and other discomforts. Therefore, having good sense, you will not plan to take long rides or walks or do any severe exercise. At the same time moderate exercise in proper clothing will tend to relieve pelvic congestion by equalizing the circulation, and if the clothing is properly adjusted and the muscles are strong and well-developed, an ordinary amount of physical activity may be beneficial rather than harmful.
Girls are so often told that they must not walk at their monthly periods, must not study, must not ride, etc., etc., that it really is no wonder that they feel it a very undesirable thing to be a woman. My observation leads me to believe that if girls from earliest childhood were dressed loosely, with no clothing suspended on the hips, if their muscles were well developed through judicious exercise, they would seldom find it necessary to be semi-invalids at any time. In fact, we do sometimes find a young woman who has no consciousness of physical disturbance during menstruation. She can pursue her usual avocations without hindrance, and finds her physical womanhood no bar to any enjoyment.
This is as it should be; but as girls have not all been well developed and properly dressed, we cannot assert that all girls can be indifferent to physical conditions at this time. If a girl is well, has no pain or discomfort, then I would say, let her use good common sense in the ordering of her daily life and give the matter no special or anxious thought. If she has pain or uneasiness, let her govern her life accordingly, using care, taking some rest at the time of the menses; but, above all things, let her arrange her clothing at all times so as to secure for herself absolute freedom of movement. Then let her, during the intervals between the menstrual periods, endeavor by judicious exercise to build up strong muscular structure around the vital organs, such structure as will support the viscera where they belong, and in time she will probably find herself growing free from menstrual pain.
During the painful periods resulting from congestion it is often advisable to keep the recumbent position, and to use heat both externally and internally. However, I would advise never using alcoholic beverages. Their apparent usefulness lies principally in the hot water with which they are administered, and the danger of forming the alcohol habit is too great to justify their use.
There are cases of nervous pain at menstruation that are aggravated by heat and diminished by cold. I knew such a case where a girl at school, suffering with menstrual pain, alarmed teachers and friends by wringing towels out of cold water and laying them over her abdomen. But the alarm subsided when they saw that the pain soon passed away under the cold application. The girl was one in whom there were no local congestions, but great nervous exhaustion and heat always increased her sufferings, while cold allayed.
I have read that a woman should not bathe or change her underwear while menstruating. I cannot see how soiled clothing can be more healthful than that which is clean; and if well-aired, I should no more object to your putting on clean underwear than to your changing your dress. Most especially would I advise a frequent change of napkins, in order to remove those which are soiled from their irritating contact with the body. A full bath during menstruation would, for most people, be unadvisable, but the cleansing of the private parts is imperative. For this, tepid water, with good soap, may be used daily or oftener. Other parts of the body may be rubbed with a wet cloth, followed by vigorous, dry rubbing. Cleanliness at all times is certainly a mark of refinement.
You should use good sense and not run out in thin slippers on wet or cold ground; but if your feet get wet through accident, keep in motion until you can make a change of shoes and stockings. There is little danger from wet feet to those in good health, if they keep in vigorous motion.
As to other rules, they are those that pertain to the care of health at all times: loose clothing, deep breathing, wholesome food, plenty of sleep, sunlight, pure air, exercise according to your strength, and, above all, serenity of mind, accepting the fact of physical womanhood, together with a recognition of its sacredness and dignity.
As a minor item, I would suggest that the napkins be fastened to straps that go over the shoulder and are then joined together in front and back to an end piece, on each of which a button is sewn. Buttonholes in the napkins at the corners, diagonal from each other, will make them easily attached or removed. The napkins should be of a material that is quickly absorbent of the flow. Cheesecloth is cheap, and can be burned or otherwise disposed of after using. It may be protected by an outer strip of unbleached muslin which is almost water-proof.
A very comfortable way of arranging napkins that are to be used from time to time is to take a piece of linen or cotton diaper sixteen inches square. About three inches from one end, make on each side an incision four inches long. Fold this strip in the middle lengthwise, and sew together up to the end of the incisions. This makes a band with a sort of pocket in the middle. Hem the cut edges. Fold the napkin over, four inches on each side, that is as deep as the incisions. Then fold crosswise until you can enclose the whole in the pocket in the band. This makes a thick center and thin ends by which to attach the napkin to the suspender.
I hold that mental serenity is one of the essentials of healthful menstrual periods, and this cannot be had if the mind is continually troubled and the thought centered on the physical condition. I would be glad to have your mind freed from the ideas of sex matters as far as possible. It is a scientific fact that thinking continually of an organ tends to disturb that organ. I know a man who was so afraid of heart disease that he felt of his pulse every few minutes and kept a stethoscope on the head of his bed to listen to his heart in the night. I would have been surprised had he not had heart trouble.
As the reproductive system awakens to activity it naturally attracts the attention of the girl, and an effort should be made to call her thoughts to other themes.
As I have said before, the reading of sensational love stories is most detrimental. The descriptions of passionate love scenes arouse in the reader a thrill through her own sexual organism that tends to increase its activity and derange its normal state. Girls often mature into women earlier than they should, because through romances, through jests of associates in regard to beaus and lovers, and through indulgence in sentimental fancies their sexual systems are unduly stimulated and aroused. This stimulation sometimes leads to the formation of an evil habit, known as self-abuse. The stimulation of the sex organs is accompanied with a pleasurable sensation, and this excitement may be created by mechanical means, or even by thought. Many girls who are victims of this most injurious habit are unaware of its dangers, although they instinctively feel that they do not want it known. Others who would not stoop to a mechanical exciting of themselves do so through thoughts, and do not know that they are just as truly guilty of self-abuse as the girl who uses the hand or other mechanical means.
The results of self-abuse are most disastrous. It destroys mental power and memory, it blotches the complexion, dulls the eye, takes away the strength, and may even cause insanity. It is a habit most difficult to overcome, and may not only last for years, but in its tendency be transmitted to one's children.
If you have from the first thought nobly of yourself, you will have fallen into no such debasing habit. But if, through ignorance, you have acquired it, how shall you overcome it?
I should hesitate to write more on this subject did I not know that many girls fall victims to this evil through ignorance, and many who thus fall could and would have been saved had they been rightly instructed. I therefore desire that you shall be wise.
Every normal function of the body is attended with a pleasurable sensation. We enjoy eating, seeing, walking. Odors bring sensations which are agreeable, the sense of touch may give pleasure, and as we enjoy these sensations in fact, so we may enjoy them in memory or in imagination. We can recall the beauty of the rose, the perfume of the mignonette, the flavor of the orange, or we can imagine new combinations of these delights. We feel joy or grief through reading vivid descriptions, or we can ourselves create imaginary scenes in which we are actors, who suffer or enjoy.
The reproductive system is the seat of great nervous susceptibility, and the excitation of these nerves gives a pleasurable sensation. This excitation may be thought a local mechanical irritation or it may be mental. In little children it may be caused by lack of cleanliness of the external organs. An irritation is produced, and an attempt to allay this by rubbing produces an agreeable feeling, which may be repeated until the evil habit of self-abuse is formed.
Sometimes constipation, by creating a pelvic congestion, will have the same result. Sometimes clothing which is too small may, by undue pressure on the parts, call the thought of the child to these organs, and in an attempt to remove the pressure by pulling the clothing away the habit may be begun.
Sometimes the tiny pin-worms in the rectum may wander into the vagina, and the little girl feel a constant annoyance, which rubbing allays temporarily, but which results in the evil habit of the use of the hands to produce an agreeable sensation. Thus through avoidable causes the evil habit may be acquired. Then it may be taught by one thus learning it to another who, without this instruction, would never have acquired it.
But new dangers arise as the girl approaches the age when the reproductive system begins to take on the activity that indicates approaching womanhood. The normal congestion of the parts causes a hitherto unknown consciousness of sex, and unless she is warned she may at this period acquire the habit without knowing its evils.
All functions necessary to the preservation of the individual life are attended with pleasure, and so are those which are for the continuation of the species. While the emotion may be pleasurable, it is at the same time the most exhausting, that can be experienced. We see that in some forms of animal existence parenthood is purchased at the expense of the life of the parent; and while in the human being the procreative act does not kill, it exhausts, and no doubt takes from the vital force of those exercising it. One can feel justified to lose a part of her own life if she is conferring life upon others, but to indulge in such a waste of vital force merely for pleasure is certainly never excusable, and least excusable of all is the arousing of pleasurable emotions by a direct violation of natural law.
The only natural method of arousing a recognition of sexual feeling is as God has appointed in holy marriage, and the self-respecting girl feels that no approach of personal familiarity is either right or proper. But it may be that she does not know that feelings may be awakened by the imagination which are as wrong morally as, and more injurious physically than, actual deeds, and so may allow her mind to revel in fancies that would shock her as actualities.
I received a letter not long ago from a young woman who most emphatically asserted that she would never, never, never permit familiarities, and then most innocently says, "but it wouldn't be wrong to imagine yourself enjoying the embrace of some certain one, would it?"
It is just this idea that there is no wrong in thought that weakens virtue's fortress and renders it easily demolished. Girls who would shrink from use of mechanical means to arouse sexual desire will permit themselves to revel in imaginary scenes of love-making with real or unreal individuals, or in mental pictures which arouse the spasmodic feelings of sexual pleasure, and yet be unaware that they are guilty of self-abuse.
Sexual feeling in itself is not base, but it can be debased either in thought or in deed. Rightly considered, it is the indication of the possession of the most sacred powers, that of the perpetuation of life.
"Passion is the instinct for preservation of one's kind, the voice of the life principle, the sign of creative power." These last four words open before us a wonderful field of thought. "Creative power!" What does that mean? Is creative power limited to reproduction of kind? Do you not create when you work out with brain some idea and then embody it in some visible form? Worth is said to create an artistic dress, the actor creates his part in the play, the musician creates the arrangement of harmonies which are represented in musical signs, and in the same sense you may be in a myriad of ways a creator.
With the beginning of activity of sexual life in yourself came increased development and new energy, beauty, and power, and the preservation and right use of that life will continue to be a source of power. "When the signs of this creative power come throbbing and pulsing in every fiber, it only shows that one has more and greater ability to create than ever before. One knows by this that she can now do greater work than she has done or is doing;" so says one writer.
Is it not a beautiful thought that this feeling, which we have supposed we must fight as something low, is in reality the stirring of a divine impulse which we can control and govern and make to serve us in all high and noble deeds?
If you hold such noble thoughts in your heart concerning yourself, you will need no threatenings to keep you from self-debasement and self-defilement. You will not need to be told of the loss of physical strength or of beauty, of memory or of reason, through evil habits of solitary vice, for they will have no temptation for you, even as you do not need threats of police and prisons to keep you from stealing, because honesty is the active and guiding principle of your life.
But supposing you have already acquired the evil habit and are now awakened to the wrong you are doing yourself; you observe the lack of lustre in the eye, the sallow, blotched complexion; you realize your loss of nerve-power manifested in cold and clammy hands, backache, lassitude, irritability, lack of memory, and inability to concentrate thought. What shall you do to overcome and to gain control of yourself? The question is a serious one, for no habit is more tyrannical than the dominion of unrestrained sexual desire. Its victims often fight for years, only to be conquered at last. If there was no cure but in fighting, I should feel that the case was almost hopeless.
The very first thing to do is to change the mental attitude in regard to the whole matter of sex; to hold it in thought as sacred, holy, consecrated to the highest of all functions, that of procreation. Recognize that, conserved and controlled, it becomes a source of energy to the individual. Cleanse the mind of all polluting images by substituting this purer thought; then go to work to establish correct habits of living in dress, diet, exercise, etc. See to it that there are no such causes of pelvic congestions as prolapsed bowels, caused by tight clothing or constipation; keep the skin active; and, above all, keep the mind healthfully occupied.
The victim of self-abuse has, through the frequent repetition of the habit, built up an undue amount of brain that is sensitive to local irritation of the sex-organs or to mental pictures of sex-pleasure. She must now allow this part of the brain to become quiescent, and she should go to work to build up other brain centers. Let her train her sight by close observation of form, color, size, location. Let her cultivate her sense of hearing in the study of different qualities of sound, tone, pitch, intensity, duration, timbre; her sense of touch, by learning to judge with closed eyes of different materials, of quality of fiber, of the different degrees of temperature, of roughness or smoothness, of density; in fact, let her endeavor to become alert, observant, along all the lines of sense-perception. Let her study nature, leaf-forms, cloud-shapes, insects, flowers, birds, bird-songs, the causes of natural phenomena; and, above all, let her keep out of the realm of the artificial, the sentimental, the emotional, and, holding firmly to the thought that creative energy is symbolized by desire and can be dignified and consecrated to noblest purposes, she will find herself daily growing into a stronger, more beautiful self-control.
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF.
I witnessed the other day a parting between two men. The elder, as he took the younger by the hand, said, "Good-by, my boy; be good to yourself;" and the younger responded, heartily, "Oh, there is no danger but I'll be that." I wondered, as I saw the laughing face, so full of the indications of the love of pleasure, if he really would be good to himself, or if he would interpret it to mean to indulge himself in all kinds of sensuous gratification. It is a great thing to be truly good to one's self, and I would give the injunction with the highest ideal. Be good to your real self with that true goodness that sees the end from the beginning, that realizes the tendency of certain forms of pleasure, and that claims the privilege of being master of the senses, and not their slave.
"Well," you say, rather deprecatingly, "you can't expect young people to act as staid and wise as you old folks. We want some fun." So you do, and that is perfectly right. You should want fun and have fun. All I ask is that you shall try to understand what real, true fun is.
I have seen young folks pull the chair from under some one "for fun," and the result was pain and perhaps permanent injury to the object of the joke.
I have known young men to imagine they were having "fun" when they went on a spree, to get "gloriously drunk," as they phrased it. You can see no fun in this. You realize that it is a most serious tragedy, with not an element of real fun in it, involving, as it does, the loss of health, the risking of life, the possibility of crime, the heart-break of friends, and perhaps even death. It is altogether a wrong idea of fun.
I have known girls in the secrecy of their rooms to smoke cigarettes "for fun," and in that I am sure that you see no amusement. It was a lowering of the standard of womanhood; it was tampering with a poison; it was something to be ashamed of, rather than something to call fun.
I have known young men and women to enter into flirtations "for fun." I knew a girl whose chief delight seemed to be in getting young men in love with her, only to cast them aside when tired of their adoration. She called this fun, but it was cruelty. In olden times men amused themselves by throwing Christians to wild beasts and watching them while being torn to pieces. This was their idea of fun, and the flirt's idea of amusement seems to be of the same order. She plays with the man as the cat with the mouse, and experiences no pangs of conscience when, torn and bleeding in heart, she tosses him aside for a new victim.
There are other young people who would not enter into such serious flirtations, and yet are unduly familiar with each other. They mean nothing by their endearments and familiarities, and neither will suffer any pangs when the pleasant intimacy is ended. Can we not call this innocent fun? They have indulged in some unobserved hand-pressures, or a few stolen kisses; but neither believed the other to mean anything serious. It was only fun; what harm could there be in that?
Many girls to-day are reasoning thus, and many of these may pass through the experience without loss of reputation; they may subsequently marry honorably, and become respected and beloved mothers. But ask any of these girls, in her mature years, when her own daughters are growing up around her, if she wants them to pass through the same experiences. I once knew a beautiful young woman who thought it was fun to have these familiar intimacies with young men, because, as she said, she knew how far to go. I saw her in her maturity, with daughters of her own, and heard her say that when she recalled her own girlish escapades, even in the darkness of the night the blushes would rush over her from head to foot, and in heartfelt agony she would say to herself, "Oh, I wonder if my girls will ever do so?"
It was fun to her in her girlhood; it was shame to her in her mature remembrance; it was agony when she saw it possible to her own children.
True fun is fun in anticipation, fun in realization, fun in retrospection, and fun in seeing it repeated by succeeding generations. If it fails to be fun in any of these instances, it fails to be genuine.
I like to see young people full of vivacity. I like to hear their merry laughter, to witness their innocent pranks; but I do not like to see them laughing at the sufferings of others, or amusing themselves with dangers of any kind. Above all, I regret to see them playing with the fire of physical passion.
Many a girl who to-day is lost to virtue had no idea that she was starting on this downward road. She was only having a good time. She was pretty, attractive, and admired. Young men flattered her with words, and when they held her hand, or put their arm around her, she took it as another compliment to her charms. She did not see that it was only selfishness, only a desire to feel the thrills of physical pleasure which this contact with her person aroused. She would have felt humiliated had she recognized this fact, and it seems to me that girls should understand the feelings that prompt young men to take personal familiarities.
The young man might deny the fact to the girl, but he understands it well enough as a fact, and he loses a measure of respect for her because she is willing to permit his advances. The girl no doubt imagines that these are sweet little secrets between herself and the young man, when perhaps he is discussing her openly with his young men friends. I have even heard such discussions on railway trains, carried on in no very low tones, between young men, well dressed and with all the outward appearances of gentlemen, and I have wondered how Jennie and Sadie and Clara and Nellie, whose names I heard openly mentioned, would have felt to have heard themselves described as "a nice, soft little thing to hug," or "she knows how to kiss."
Do you imagine these young men would have thus spoken had they truly respected the girls? They might say "They are nice girls," but would they say, in their deeper consciousness, "They are true, self-respecting, womanly girls, and I honor them?"
"But what is a girl to do?" asks one. "If she is prudish she won't get any attention. She has to allow a certain innocent freedom, or young men won't go with her."
Do you really believe that, dear girl? Let me tell you what young men have said to me. Said one, "O, we have to be familiar with the girls. They all expect it, and would be offended if we were just friendly and manifested no familiarities." Do you suppose girls ever thought of the possibility of the young men saying that? When they are pleading for permission to be familiar they do sometimes say, "Why, all the girls allow it," but they also add, "so there can be no harm;" while among themselves they are laughing at the credulity of the girls, or accusing them of making it necessary for the young men to take "innocent" liberties in order to have the good will of the girls.
A young man may assure you most emphatically that he respects you none the less, although you allow him to hold your hand or kiss you at parting, but he knows it is not true, and he will admit it to others rather than to the girl herself. Truthful young men say, "Of course, we have the most respect for the girls who keep us at a distance." "But they won't pay us attention," say the girls. "Is that so?" I asked of a young man. "Are you more earnest in pursuit of the girl who courts approaches, or the girl who holds you at bay?" "Why!" responded he, with emphasis, "the girls ought to know that a boy wants most that which is hardest to get; but we are actually obliged to treat the girls with familiarity or they won't go with us." And this young man seemed really surprised when I assured him that girls supposed they were obliged to accept caresses in order to have the attention of young men. Then this same young man spoke of something that I know to be too often true. He said, "It is strange, if the girls don't want these things, that they act as they do, for they actually invite familiarity. In fact, many times I would have been glad to be respectfully friendly, but the girls did not seem satisfied, and by many little ways and manners they indicated that they were ready to be caressed. I think they mean to be good girls, but they put an awful lot of temptation in a fellow's way."
No doubt these girls did not realize what they were doing, but I believe every young woman should have so clear an understanding of human nature as to know that she is playing with a dangerous fire when she allows caresses and unbecoming familiarity. She ought to know that, while she may hold herself above criminal deeds, if she permits fondlings and caresses she may be directly responsible for arousing a passion in the young man that may lead him to go out from her presence and seek the company of dissolute women, and thus lose his honor and purity because a girl who called herself virtuous tempted him. Is she in truth more honorable than the outcast woman? She has allowed familiarities in the matter of embraces and kisses, and she may not know what thoughts have been inspired in the mind of the young man by her unguarded conduct. She may feel indignant at the suggestion, because she has meant no harm, but in reality she should blush that her own familiar conduct has given him a tacit right to think of her with even greater freedom.
Girls have a wonderful responsibility in regard even to the moral conduct of young men, and the self-respecting girl will guard herself not only from the contamination of touch, but from an undue freedom of thought.
Do you say she cannot govern the thoughts of men? I reply, she can to a great extent. By a dress that exposes her person to public gaze, or even more seductively hides it under a film of suggestive lace, she has given a direction to the thoughts of those who look at her. She has declared that their eyes may touch her, that their thoughts may be occupied with an inventory of her physical charms. She has openly announced that she is willing to be appraised by eyes of men as a beautiful animal. What wonder if their thoughts go further than her public declaration, and that they may freely surmise the charms that still remain hidden?
When a girl, by putting herself into graceful attitudes in tempting nearness to a young man, casts coquettish glances, she has done that which will give a turn to the thought which may prove provocative of deeds.
"I am afraid of that girl," said a young man who desired to live purely. "May be she does not mean it, but her poses and glances make it almost impossible for me to keep my hands off of her. I am obliged to leave her for fear that I shall kiss her when she looks so mischievously alluring."
The girl, perhaps, would have been flattered by the kiss and indignant at further liberties, yet would have felt no compunctions had her victim been inflamed by a passion that he lacked the power to control, prompting him to seek some other girl to be his prey.
You think men should have self-control. So they should. We will not lessen the blame of the young man, but the girl who puts the temptation in his way, even if she did not herself yield to it, is not guiltless.
The conduct of a pure woman should be the safeguard and not the destruction of a man, and she can be his protector, even as he is hers. I heard an eminent woman say that woman was man's moral protector, and man woman's physical protector, and I said that is only half true. Man is also woman's moral protector, and woman is also man's physical protector. She is acknowledged to be his physical tempter. If she knows her power she can, by her wise, modest, womanly demeanor, make it impossible for him to feel an impure impulse in her presence. Ruskin says:
"You cannot think that the buckling on of the knight's armor by his lady's hand was a mere caprice of romantic fashion. It is the type of an eternal truth—that the soul's armor is never well set to the heart unless a woman's hand has braced it; and it is only when she braces it loosely that the honor of manhood fails. Know you not those lovely lines—I would they were learned by all youthful ladies of England—
"'Ah wasteful woman! she who may On her sweet self set her own price, Knowing he cannot choose but pay— How has she cheapen'd Paradise! How given for nought her priceless gift, How spoiled the bread and spill'd the wine, Which, spent with due, respective thrift, Had made brutes men, and men divine!'"
FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN BOYS AND GIRLS.
You might like to know, dear reader, if I do not believe in some intermediate relation between that of the comrade and the lover—a more intimate relation than the one and less intimate than the other. You ask, Cannot a young man and a young woman be real, true friends?
Let us talk a little about friendship and what it implies. I should define a friend as one who believes in me, who expects much of me, who encourages me to do the best that is in me, who will tell me of my faults, who recognizes my virtues, who trusts in my honor.
You are willing to accept that definition, and you think it possible to be all that to each other without being lovers. I believe it, too, but I would like to make some further statements before we have the discussion of this question.
I believe that a girl's first and best friends are her parents; her wisest confidante, her mother. To these she may speak unreservedly of herself. With these she may freely talk over family matters. In a friendship with some outside the family it would be unwise to discuss family matters. It might be an unkindness to other members of the family, and in case of a break in the friendship the family secrets might be betrayed, and to the detriment of the trusting friend. I once read of such an affair, where one girl had confided to another certain matters that reflected on the honor of her family, and when the friendship was broken the secret was betrayed, to the public shame of the girl who had been unwise in her confidences.
True honor would forbid the betrayal of a confidence even after the rupture of a friendship; but all persons have not the highest ideal of honor. If the girl is not discreet in her revelation of herself, and her mother is her only confidante, it will not be so serious a matter, for the mother will never be tempted to reveal to others anything that would bring scorn or criticism upon her child. Nowhere, in her girlish ignorance, can the girl find as sincere sympathy as in the loving mother.
"But all mothers are not sympathetic," you say. "They are often nagging, and use the confidences of the daughter to make her uncomfortable." Well, if this be so, you, at least, can learn the lesson, and by your habits of thought fit yourself to be the wise, loving, companionable, sympathetic confidante of your daughter, for you will be anxious that she should have no friend so close as yourself.
However, I believe that mothers should recognize the individuality of their daughters, and win, rather than command, confidence. It is difficult for us, as mothers, to realize that our daughter is just as much a separate individual as is our neighbor's daughter, and that we have no right to thrust ourselves upon her, no right to demand that she shall love us. We have the right to sympathize, to counsel, to direct her conduct so long as she remains in our personal care, but we should remember that she must be responsible, that she is a soul and must live her own life, learn her own lessons, suffer her own experiences. Our deepest love can only enable us to help her to choose wisely, to think truly, to act judiciously. So I would have the friendship of mother and daughter something very deep and true—something more than a petting and caressing, an indulging or humoring.
I would be inclined to have less outward demonstration and more inner tenderness. I believe that very often outward impression comes largely to take the place of true affection. I see girls who kiss and fondle their mothers, who never open to them their heart's deepest secrets. Fewer kisses and more confidence would satisfy more thoroughly the mother's heart. I believe that, even in the family, a kiss should not become a conventionality. It should have a meaning. I would rather that my daughter should kiss me once a week, with a spontaneous desire thus to express her love, than that, from custom, she should kiss me morning, noon, and night.
There are sanitary reasons against kissing, such as transmission of germs of disease; but aside from this, there are affectional reasons why kisses should be few, and these few spontaneous rather than required.
We ought never to force our kisses upon children; but, recognizing their individuality, leave them free to proffer or to refuse.
Next to the friendship of parents should come that of brother and sister. We almost think it a wonder when members of the same family seem really to love each other, and yet family ties should be the strongest in the world. Why should there not be the sweetest intimacy between two sisters, whose lives and interests are so closely united? Why should not the bond between mother and sister be indissoluble?